Theories of Sexual Coercion: Evolutionary, Feminist, and Biosocial Perspectives

  • Published 2007


Rape is defined as " copulation resisted to the best of the victim's ability unless such resistance would probably result in death or serious injury to the victim or in death or injury to individuals the victim commonly protects (Thornhill and Palmer, 2000, pg. 1). " More specifically, Minnesota state law defines rape as sexual contact achieved: 1. without consent; 2. with use of physical force, coercion, deception, threat; and/or 3. when the victim is:-mentally incapacitated or impaired;-physically impaired; and/or-asleep or unconscious. Sexual assault is a broader legal term used to indicate any sexual activity with another person who cannot or does not consent (RAINN, 2001). Rape is highly prevalent within the United States. Koss et al. (1987) found that more than 15% of the women sampled reported that they had been raped, and 12.1% indicated that they had been victims of attempted rape. An additional 14.4% reported that they had experienced lesser forms of sexual assault. The US Department of Justice (RAINN, 2001) warns that a woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes in America, and a woman has a one in four chance of being a victim of sexual assault at some point in 2 her lifetime. In 1996, only 31% of rapes were reported to some form of law enforcement, and 75% of female rape victims require medical care after the attack (RAINN, 2001). Rape is not limited to human societies. Many animal societies show evidence of sexually coercive techniques. Males in these species rely on three main forms of sexual coercion, including forced copulation, harassment, and intimidation. Forced copulation is restricted to animal societies where the males have the strength and ability to restrain the females during copulation (Clutton-Block and Parker, 1995). Because rape is not limited to humans and occurs in nearly every culture, various theoretical viewpoints have struggled to identify the causes of rape, as well as effective plans for preventing sexual assaults and treating victims. This paper will present three main theories of sexual assault: evolutionary theory, feminist theory, and a synthesized (biosocial) theory of rape. Evolutionary Theory In order to understand the evolutionary theory of sexual coercion, one must understand the theory of natural selection and adaptation. There are two levels of behavior causation: proximate and ultimate. Proximate causes of behavior are short-term, immediate causes. Social scientists are most concerned with this type of behavior, which can include the behavior influence of …

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@inproceedings{2007TheoriesOS, title={Theories of Sexual Coercion: Evolutionary, Feminist, and Biosocial Perspectives}, author={}, year={2007} }